|Reverend James and Geneva (Mary) McKinley|
As a child growing up, she had a difficult life. Born in the late 1920's she was child in rural Kentucky during the days of the Great Depression. Adding to the difficult times of the depression, her mother died when she was only four-years-old. As a child myself, I grew up listening to the stories of her daily difficulties that came primarily from being a small child in a very large family. She told of the 1937 flood in the Ohio Valley, a flood so great that it changed the course of rivers and uprooted entire small towns. Vividly, she shared how she watched her father (my namesake) walk to the edge of the waterline at flood stage to see how close the water was to the small
cabin where the large family of mostly children called home. She told us of the worry on my grandfather's face as he marked the waterline and then look toward the cabin, wondering if his children would be there when he returned from long-hours of backbreaking work in the deep, dark underground coal mines. Then, she told us of the explosions in the mines, a common occurrence due to the dangerous working conditions imposed by the coal companies. As she watched my grandfather walking toward the entrance of the mine to try and rescue trapped miners, she told of weeping and begging him, "please don't go back into the mines!" On one such occasion it was obvious to all that there would be no survivors of the blast and collapse in the mine. She said, "daddy, please don't go into the mine today, if no one is alive, why do you have to go?" She told that he stopped, turned around and knelt, holding her in his arms, he said, "honey, I've got to go back and bring them out...those were my friends...I've got to go." He then stood up, turned and walked into the burning, smoke-filled mine and walked out of her sight. She waited outside the mine from daylight to dark until my grandfather emerged from the mine carrying a stretcher of body parts of his friends, ensuring what was left of them would have a proper burial.
My mother then told us of the hardships of no food to eat. One moment so clear in her memory was of the time she found a jar of mustard in a cabinet and hiding in the corner eating it directly from the jar. She had a very, very hard childhood. Later as a young adult, she accepted Christ into her life and did the best she could to rear her four children. She lost a child between my older brother and me, and then when my older brother became a teenager, she dealt with his difficulties brought on, mostly because of epilepsy. Then, as the older children began to marry, she watched in desperation as both married and then divorced. She grieved as two of my brother's children died, then not too many years later, when my brother, one-month short of his 26th birthday suddenly died. My brother's dead body became the altar where my father came to know the Lord and subsequently entered the ministry.
Fast-forward a decade and a half of my mother and father serving as pastor very small churches, my father suddenly died at the age of 61. After 42 years of marriage she was heart-broken...we were all heartbroken. She lived a little over a year longer and then suffered the medical difficulties I shared at the beginning of this story. But that is not the end of the story. During the year-and-a-half my mother was in a coma. She only spoke two times in all of this time, and both times she said, "God's been good to me." Think about that for a moment. Her 63 years on this earth was not easy. She had more than her share of problems, but when she awakened on ONLY TWO occasions, her words were, "God's been good to me."
What brings such strength to a person? What is it that cause people to continue to rise when beaten down so severely from the difficulties of life? There are some who would say, "oh, this is the triumph of human spirit." In one sense that is true....it was the triumph of A human spirit that had been developed through years of prayer, study of God's Word and learning to lean on her heavenly Father when solace could be found no where else. The sorrow, the suffering and the loss in her life only served to draw her close to God through the vehicle of prayer.
You may be going through a difficult time in your life right now...thinking there is no hope, there is no answer. Please hear me, that same level of strength my mother found over and over can be yours too. It is cultivated and found through relationship with the Lord. Join us during this twenty one days of prayer and experience the comfort that comes from God's Presence in your life. God bless you!